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Budget Commander: $20 Adaptive Enchantment Upgrade

Commander 2018 preconstructed decks have arrived, and that means it's time for another round of my most popular articles: the $20 precon upgrades! I'll first go over how each preconstructed deck plays, why you should buy it, and the various directions that you can upgrade the deck and make it your own. We start off with my personal favorite deck of the bunch, Adaptive Enchantment, an Enchantress deck that plays big beaters kept safe with protective auras. The Enchantress archetype holds a special place in my heart since my most beloved physical deck is a 5C Enchantress deck that I've been tweaking over five years now — in fact, one of my earliest Budget Commander articles was about that deck, which is still up here. While Enchantress received Commander attention in the past with Daxos the Returned, the heart of a traditional Enchantress deck is Selesnya colors, so for many Enchantress players like myself, Daxos was cool but didn't scratch that itch. Finally however, we got our Selesnya Enchantress support, so we can pair Replenish with Enchantress's Presence in the same deck! They even added Blue for extra spice! Sweet!

Adaptive Enchantment is a midrange Enchantress deck that offers three major subthemes to build around. The most prominent subtheme is Go Tall, the primary strategy of this deck, looking to play a big threat (Tuvasa the Sunlit) and suiting it up with aura protection (Eel Umbra) to make your threat both scarier and harder to deal with. We also have an Aura theme that overlaps with the Go Tall theme (Sage's Reverie), and finally the beginnings of a Go Wide style of play which is the least supported but still there (Ajani's Chosen). 

You might like the deck if ...

  • You want to play Enchantress (duh)
  • You'd prefer a deck that is simple and straightforward to play
  • You want a deck that heavily supports a Go Tall subtheme right out of the box and has a good base for Go Wide and Auras
  • You want a lot of protection against removal

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You'd prefer a creature-light strategy, perhaps Combo or Spellslinger
  • You don't really care if your creatures die; maybe you'd prefer a Sacrifice/Reanimation deck
  • You don't like Enchantress (duh)
  • You want a more complex deck that has multiple roads to victory

If you like where this deck is going, then great! Let's check out the preconstructed list:

As stated earlier, Arcane Adaptation is an Enchantress deck, specifically of the Go Tall variety. We have at least 12 creatures that are strong candidates to be enchanted, some specifically benefiting from auras (Aura Gnarlid) while others are good candidates for your auras due to having keywords like trample and providing other scaling benefits (Hydra Omnivore). There are at least 16 cards that can pump your creatures, mostly auras (Bear Umbra) but a few other ways too (Nylea's Colossus). If we can't end the game with a suited up threat, we do have at least 4 powerful token generators that can eventually Go Wide and end the game, most notably Sigil of the Empty Throne. No matter how your game plays out, this deck is absolutely an Enchantress deck and wins through combat.


Enchantress Ramp

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Of the three Bant Enchantress commanders from the precon, Estrid, the Masked is the least aggressive of the bunch, at least not directly rewarding you for attacking. Her bread and butter +2 ability is strongest when paired with aura land ramp (Fertile Ground), generating absurd amounts of mana for explosive turns. The ability is so strong that if Estrid is your commander it's well worth running the ~10 good aura land ramps available in Bant over most of the traditionally better ramp options (one such notable exception being Mirari's Wake). There are some other benefits from her +2, like making an extra beast per turn off Spawning Grounds and giving your creatures pseudo-vigilance, but the ramp potential is the main draw.

When you aren't ramping like crazy, Estrid's -1 is an excellent source of protection for your most important permanents, while also putting an enchantment on the battlefield to grow creatures like Yavimaya Enchantress, create a token off Ajani's Chosen, and trigger constellation cards like Eidolon of Blossoms. At the very least you can enchant a land to fuel her +2 ability. Finally, her -7 ability isn't always going to win games by itself, but hitting 3+ enchantments is a big tempo swing. That's not the main draw to play Estrid anyway: it's all about her mighty +2 ability, with the welcome support of her -1 ability.

Estrid has at least one easy combo to pull off: Estrid, the Masked + The Chain Veil + an enchanted land allows you produce infinite mana by using her -1 to enchant the Veil, then using the Veil to +2 multiple time to untap Veil + lands to go up in net mana. Add additional cards from there to win the game somehow. It's a lot of cards but they're all stuff you'd be running in the deck anyway.

Overall, I think Estrid, the Masked is not just the strongest of the three Bant Enchantress commanders, I think she's the strongest Enchantress commander period. The amount of ramp she can produce is just insane. Beyond running Fertile Ground-type cards, you can build her any way you want, though I would expect she will often be more Control than Aggro because the other two Bant Enchantress options are inherently more aggressive than her.

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Enchantress Voltron

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Tuvasa the Sunlit is our heavy-hitting Bant Enchantress commander. She starts out small, but she grows big fast. The merfolk shines brightest in an Enchantress deck with a low curve, starting fast with ramp/fixing like Utopia Sprawl / Wild Growth / Abundant Growth. It's easy to grow her into a 6/6 or larger without really trying. At that point you've got an excellent attacker/blocker that is drawing you a card each turn; crazy good value at just 3 cmc!

While Tuvasa is great value in any Enchantress deck, with a little work you can get even more value out for her. Being limited to drawing only one card per turn is horribly fair, but we can kind of get around it with flash-enablers like Leyline of Anticipation, letting you cast your enchantments on opponent's turns as well to draw more cards.

Tuvasa is great as part of the 99 as a big creature drawing you cards, but if she's your commander then you're probably looking to build her as Voltron. She's a great choice for this strategy: while she doesn't have any inherent protection from removal, she's only 3 cmc so she arrives on the battlefield early and can be recast a bunch of times, she grows big fast, and has access to Blue countermagic. That makes her a good alternative Uril, the Miststalker, another Enchantress Voltron commander. If you go Voltron, then she benefits greatly from cheap protection (Hyena Umbra, Vanishing), ways to get her damage past chump blockers (Rancor), and ways to pump her damage (Ancestral Mask).

One other quick tidbit before we move on: Tuvasa the Sunlit is the first ever legendary Merfolk in Bant colors! While Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca and Sygg, River Guide are actual Merfolk Lords, both are restricted from playing all the goodies spread out in all three colors, something Tuvasa can finally take advantage of. There might be a sweet Merfolk Enchantress brew out there taking advantage of Go Wide tokens (Deeproot Waters) and anthems (Radiant Destiny). We won't be covering that deck here, but it's something to think about!

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Enchantress Auras

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Of all the Bant Enchantress commanders, Kestia, the Cultivator can draw us the most cards, so I'm already excited about her. I expect to be drawing 2-4 cards a turn off her in a deck with a high concentration of enchantment creatures and auras, since there aren't any efficient ways to consistently flood the board with enchantment creatures. Sure, that's not the absurd level of card draw that a Tokens deck can achieve with a Coastal Piracy out, but still amazing value for a 4 cmc creature sitting in your command zone! We also have one cheat code with Enchanted Evening, which turns all our creatures into enchantments and gives us an easy way to draw tons of cards!

Kestia also has some other advantages the other two Bant Enchantress commander lack. First, she herself is an enchantment, so she draws you a card off Mesa Enchantress, gains shroud from Greater Auramancy, can be brought back from the graveyard with Replenish, etc. Second, she has the option to bestow, giving her additional protection from removal and helping you get an attacker through potential blockers.

Overall, I think Kestia, the Cultivator will be the Bant Aura deck. You can play a bunch of creatures that wear auras really well, like Druid of Horns, you've got aura tutors like Heliod's Pilgrim, card draw with Kor Spiritdancer, ramp with Danitha Capashen, Paragon, amazing recursion with Retether, and finishers like Bruna, Light of Alabaster, not to mention all the more generic Enchantress support you can run! Kestia Auras is basically just a superior version of my Budget Tiana deck, which was already one of my favorite budget brews! There is a ton of extra Aura synergy cards out there to run alongside our other Enchantress support and oh man it's so fun! While I think Estrid, the Masked is the strongest of the three, Kestia, the Cultivator is my personal favorite!

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What Is The Deck Lacking?

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 sources of "card advantage;" I use this term loosely but am mostly looking for card draw or any spell that nets me 2+ non-land cards in hand / directly into play
  • 6 targeted removal, split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want 1 more, creature-heavy decks might want 1 less
  • 2 recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; because you never forget to add some graveyard hate in your deck, right? Right? Right?!
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question. Let's see what the rough ratios are for Adaptive Enchantment and how it compares:

Adapative Enchantment has a ton of mana to cast its many heavy-hitting creatures and suit them up. It also has a high amount of card advantage which, coupled with its built-in resiliency against removal, means it's unlikely that you'll run out of steam when going up against the other decks. Adaptive Enchantment is the best suited of the precons for winning the long game, beating opponents through attrition with big protected creatures.

The preconstructed deck's glaring weakness, however, is its lack of interaction, particularly targeted removal. The board wipes are quite nice, but it has zero ways to pick off a single pesky creature except hope it attacks and forgets about your Soul Snare. A couple more answers -- Swords to Plowshares, Grasp of Fate, Seal of Cleansing, heck even just a plain ol' Oblivion Ring can go a long way not to lose the game because you have no answers to a single permanent on the battlefield. We also could cut some of our many slow-burn threats for another one or two surprise "I Win" cards.

When upgrading the deck, the most important thing we can do is adjust what types of threats we're running and adding more targeted removal in the deck.

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Estrid Enchantress Control Upgrades

Estrid, the Masked is pretty chill about what direction you build around her. Since she is the least aggressive of the three commanders, however, I'll be building the sample as a more Control style deck. The only thing you gotta do is make sure you're running aura land ramp to abuse her +2 ability.

Here are some of my favorite card options for Enchantress Control:

Here's all the cards in deck list form:

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$20 Estrid Enchantress Upgrade

Before we can add our upgrades, we need to cut cards to make room for the new stuff. Here are the first cards I'd look to cut. Some cards are on-theme but simply too weak (Boon Satyr), others are great cards on their own but we have better synergy options to replace them with (Bant Charm), and a couple are neither on-theme or generally good cards (Myth Unbound).

Next are our upgrades. Remember that I was looking to increase our targeted removal and add at least one more surprise "I Win" card to help close out games.

As mentioned before, Estrid, the Masked's greatest strength is generating a ton of mana with her +2 ability, so I added 5 extra enchant land ramp between 1-3cmc to really abuse her ability. I've also thrown in Annex which is basically our budget Strip Mine except it doubles as ramp for us and synergizes with Estrid; really cool tech! For targeted removal I've added Seal of Cleansing + Primordium as synergy Disenchants, Darksteel Mutation is an MVP creature removal because it also denies commanders from going back to the command zone, plus a few more theft auras (Corrupted Conscience) as "removal" plus extra threats / win conditions for our deck! 

Open the Vaults is the best budget-friendly recursion in our deck. There's also Crystal Chimes, but I figured with Open and Creeping Renaissance we have enough recursion. For the record, I think Hanna, Ship's Navigator and Dowsing Shaman are okay but very slow and much prefer the other forms of recursion.

The rest of the deck should be straightforward: Sphere of Safety is insane protection in Enchantress, and the Enchantress trio (Mesa Enchantress) are going to be a great source of additional card draw. Ancestral Mask is our extra "I Win" button because you probably can 1-shot someone the turn you cast it.

Here's Arcane Adaptation with the changes made:


Kestia Aura Upgrades

While my direction with Estrid, the Masked is more Enchantress Control, I want to focus on specifically the Aura archetype when building Kestia, the Cultivator. Because Auras are a subtheme of Enchantress, all the cards listed earlier are still great choices for the deck and I won't relist them here, but instead I'll provide more options for specifically an Aura deck:

And here they are in deck list form:

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$20 Kestia Aura Upgrade

The first step is making room in the precon for our upgrades. Same thought process happens as outlined previously with Estrid:

Not only are we taking out cards that don't push the Aura theme, but we're also lowering the average cmc of the deck because our additions are going to draw tons of cards that we want to dump out on the table asap:

There's an emphasis on auras that grant evasion while cantripping (Stratus Walk) so we can draw card with Kestia without losing our creatures to blockers. Our Aura theme lets us run incredibly powerful support cards like Retether, Three Dreams, Nomad Mythmaker, and of course extra card draw with Kor Spiritdancer! Sram, Senior Edificer and Sigarda's Aid were the last cards to be cut to squeeze down to our $20 budget.

Theft auras (Control Magic) are even more effective with Kestia, the Cultivator as our commander, since we then draw cards with our opponent's stolen creatures! Unfortunately they are a nonbo with Umbra Mystic but I figure both cards are so good that they're worth risking the situations where we can't play one or the other.

Here's the precon with the changes made:


Tuvasa Voltron Upgrades

Tuvasa the Sunlit benefits from the exact same cards I outlined when talking about Estrid, the Masked and Kestia, the Cultivator, so I won't go over the same cards that I already covered. Instead we're going to add to our discussion of Enchantress / Auras by tossing in Voltron cards into the mix. Keep in mind that you don't need to build Tuvasa as Voltron -- you could just as easily make her your Enchantress Control or Aura commander and do just as well -- but she is the best of the three at doing that.

(Offtopic: Why does Tuvasa not have a comma before her title while the other two do? Can someone with a better grasp of the English language explain it to me?)

After talking Enchantress and Auras, there aren't a lot of cards left to highlight, but here are a couple that I'd consider for a Voltron build:

Like I said, it's a short list but that's because I covered so many cards already. One thing to note is if you're focusing on a Voltron strategy and don't plan to have a lot of other creatures around, you can run more board wipes (Wrath of God) because your cheap totem armors (Hyena Umbra) will protect Tuvasa. Also cards like Dueling Grounds let you swing freely with Tuvasa while limiting any potential crackback.


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$20 Tuvasa Voltron Upgrade


This build is similar to the Kestia Aura one except it places extra emphasis on dealing lethal damage with Tuvasa the Sunlit. The plan is to deal even more damage with her using stuff like Battle Mastery and Auramancer's Guise and we're taking extra measures to protect her with things like Vanishing and Shield of the Oversoul. Even if she does get shut down, we have plenty of backup creatures to finish the job.

Here's the list put together:


Blinged Sample List

With the release of Arcane Adaptation, I've decided to turn my 5C Enchantress deck into Bant Enchantress. I love all the new commanders, but my favorite is currently Kestia, the Cultivator, which I plan to build into Bant Auras. Because I have a list already in my head I'll share it here to give you all an idea on where the deck can go:

All the goodies of the budget Aura deck with more expensive upgrades, plus the nasty Enchanted Evening + Calming Verse combo because I'm mean.

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One Down, Three To Go!

Phew, this marathon of an article is over! Hope you enjoyed my take on Arcane Adaptation and the three different archetypes you can build from it. Our work has just begun though: it's time to write the next article! See you again when it's done!

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